Sayoni Saha

CLASS OF 2021

When one possesses a natural proclivity for curiosity, there’s no telling what can be accomplished. For second-year UF College of Medicine student Sayoni Saha, her drive to seek answers to hard-hitting questions led her down the path toward medical school and a future career as a physician.

As a high school student, Saha volunteered at a Down syndrome clinic in Irvine, California. She instantly recognized a love for the relationships among physicians and their patients, but it took nearly a year of volunteering for Saha to realize a deeper interest in working with young people with developmental disabilities. When a teenaged patient showed Saha a photo of her boyfriend and noted to Saha his resemblance to teen heartthrob Zac Efron, Saha found herself speechless.

“I realized then how little I knew about this patient’s life and what it really meant to live with developmental disabilities. This then triggered other questions for me,” Saha reSahacalls.

She began searching for existing research on self-concept among young people with developmental disabilities. How does this population view themselves and their relationships and roles within their communities? Saha quickly realized there was nothing written on the topic. So, she began conducting the research herself. In 2012, President Barack Obama invited Saha to the White House as an Intel Science Talent Search finalist for her work on self-concept among young people with Down syndrome. Her research was published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics.

“In medicine, you have an opportunity to connect with, better understand and serve as an advocate for individuals from stigmatized or poorly understood communities. It’s such a privilege,” Saha says. “Interacting with patients makes me think, what can I do to help this population? If this is a question we’re asking, why don’t we study it?”